On India’s air monitoring during Diwali
As India celebrated Diwali on Thursday, the environment ministry’s efforts to capture changes in air quality were spotty at best – with the information either inadequate or simply outdated. Given such lapses in data gathering, it’s anyone’s guess what kind of air most Indians were sucking into their lungs. In Delhi, at about 10 pm,… Continue reading
An updated version of the air quality story
today’s et carries an updated version of the air quality story published yesterday — the story got reworked once i got the cpcb’s answers. as things stand, its answers resolved some of the questions in the previous avatar of the story and triggered newer ones. do take a look. and, here, the q&a with the… Continue reading
On the proposed Air Quality Index (and flaws therein)
About six days ago, India released a draft Air Quality Index. The idea is unexceptionable. The Index seeks to make air quality more easily comprehensible by reporting air quality not as dry numbers of raw concentrations but as colour-coded assessments of health impacts — good, moderate, poor, very poor, hazardous, etc. In this story out… Continue reading
The Chandasi Coal Mandi
Today’s ET carries a story on Chandasi – also spelt as Chandausi. It is a mandi — like the agri markets of India — but one dealing in coal. It is a fascinating place. Its architecture is similar to that of a farm mandi even though the commodities the two trade in are so different.… Continue reading
Why India’s numbers on air quality cannot be trusted
For some time now, India has been putting out her air quality numbers. Visit the website of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) or the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) and you will find them. In the odd city, you will see LED displays giving real-time updates on air quality in the city. How accurate… Continue reading
lov verma, harsh vardhan, jp nadda…
Has the Union health ministry misled Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the AIIMS CVO matter? On August 23, health secretary Lov Verma sent a detailed note to the PMO on why Sanjiv Chaturvedi, an Indian Forest Service officer who had uncovered several scams while posted in Haryana, had been removed from the post of Chief… Continue reading
On cleaning up India
yesterday, on the day mahatma gandhi was born, the indian government unveiled its latest mantra. ministers were out sweeping streets, saying that india needs to be cleaned. it is anyone’s guess if this new mission will fizzle out or stick around and make a difference. saying that televised tokenism is not enough, i wrote this… Continue reading
and the supreme court deallocates all blocks…
yesterday, shortly after 2 pm, the supreme court deallocated almost all captive coalblocks — sparing just the umpps and two JV-less blocks of sail and ntpc. with that, i guess, ends my reporting on the captive coal block allocations. see these two links. one, this bouncy little primer written yesterday on what coalgate was all… Continue reading
what the affidavits submitted by the 40 operational coal block owners tell us…
Earlier this month, companies with operating captive coal blocks submitted affidavits in the Supreme Court. Attempting to ensure their blocks, 40 in all, are not deallocated along with those where mining has not started, these affidavits listed investments made, the quantum of coal produced and the production from the End Use Plant (EUP) paired with… Continue reading
#coalgate. as for the attempts to avoid deallocation of operational blocks…
my previous story on the supreme court hearings into the captive coal block allocation was a bit of a curtain-raiser. it said when hearings resume on monday, the biggest question before the judges will be re: what to do with the blocks where mining has already started. as things turned out, a set of industry… Continue reading
is the bjp getting nervous about the by-poll in chhattisgarh?
The Chhattisgarh unit of Congress has alleged that BJP coerced all 6 independent contestants to withdraw from the Antagarh by-poll, two days after its candidate Manturam Pawar withdrew from the race. Continue reading
what should be done with the coalblocks where mining has already started?
On Monday, the Supreme Court will decide what to do with captive coal blocks, having deemed more than 200 allocations made since 1993 to be illegal. While writing their order, one of the biggest questions before Chief Justice R M Lodha and his fellow judges Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph will relate to the 40-odd… Continue reading
on the national tiger conservation authority and its strange disdain for laws…
today’s ET has this story on the NTCA — the national tiger conservation authority. “On July 9, India’s ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) issued an intriguing circular. It sought candidates for an apex position in tiger conservation — additional director general (Project Tiger) and member secretary at the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) —… Continue reading
day one of jan dhan yojana
i reported for this story on the first day of jan dhan yojana. while the media exults over its success in opening over a crore accounts on day one, cracks in the model are already visible. cynical tokenism, all this. Continue reading
modi sarkar and its env/dev record
and then, there is this story on its environmental track record till now. If environment minister Prakash Javadekar’s tweets are anything to go by, India is treading a fine balance between development and environmental protection. For instance, on May 31, shortly after taking charge at Paryavaran Bhawan, he tweeted: “The government believes in #environment and… Continue reading
the new, new contours of financial inclusion
from the et special issue on modi sarkar completing 100 resplendent days in power, this story on financial inclusion… Every two years, India’s financial inclusion drive reformats itself into a brand new, entirely unrecognisable avatar. Till about three years ago, it starred banks, the Reserve Bank of India and banking correspondent companies. Then came DBTs… Continue reading
On cleaning the ganges
from an et special issue on modi sarkar completing 100 days, this report on its election promise to clean the ganga. Continue reading
how to clean up the coal allocation mess
With the Supreme Court announcing that the captive coal block allocations were illegal, India needs to engage with a new set of questions on coal. Right now, our coal industry is a mess. It has spawned oligarchs, hurt local populations and decimated local ecosystems. While doing all this, it simultaneously failed to supply the country… Continue reading
and the supreme court comes in with an excellent verdict
yesterday, the SC ruled that all coal block allocations, from 1993 onwards, were illegal. and i, little rajshekhar, wrote this edit. The Supreme Court’s ‘Coalgate’ verdict needs to be welcomed. It gives India a rare second chance to fix terrible decisions made by our politicians. The coal allocations scandal is not an outrage merely because… Continue reading
why rising food prices might be here to stay
None of the standard explanations quite explain the rise in food prices India has seen: pronounced since 2006 and alarming after 2010. Drought and poor rains? The country has seen good aggregate rainfall in most of those years. Spike in global prices? Those were high in 2007-08, not now. Fragmented value chains that allow middlemen… Continue reading
is the forest rights act being implemented well? (the answer is ‘no’)
Last month, union tribal Minister Jual Oram told the Lok Sabha that India is making “satisfactory progress” implementing the “Forest Rights Act” (FRA). However, a closer look at the numbers he submitted in the house indicates otherwise. my story on how the government’s claims about “satisfactory” implementation of the forest rights act are garbage. what… Continue reading
modi. dbt. jayalalitha. tn.
Resisting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push for direct benefits transfer using Aadhaar, Tamil Nadu has refused to share list of its welfare scheme beneficiaries for matching with Aadhaar numbers, saying a hasty cross-checking exercise could end up denying benefits to hundreds of poor. Continue reading
on coal and ppps
The Economic Survey, last month, said there was an urgent need to fast-track the entry of private sector in coal mining to increase production of this mineral and, by extension, reduce imports. Subsequently, coal and power minister Piyush Goyal stated the government was considering the use of public-private partnerships (PPPs) to achieve this objective. PPPs… Continue reading
a big setback for aadhaar
The finance ministry has decided to limit Aadhaar’s role in its welfare scheme payments and, instead, use ATM-enabled RuPay cards for last-mile authentication to withdraw money. While it will continue to use Aadhaar for opening accounts and to eliminate ghosts and duplicates from beneficiary rolls, the ministry has decided to give RuPay ATM cards with… Continue reading
RBI opposes NDA financial inclusion plan
The new financial inclusion push, Sampoorn Vittiyea Samaveshan, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is widely expected to unveil on August 15 does not quite have the central bank on its side. Top government sources told ET that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was in disagreement with three critical elements of the drive. it opposed… Continue reading
the latest question on aadhaar
…While researching this story, ET reviewed two drafts produced by the Department of Financial Services – one in June, and the second in July. The draft dated 8 July, 2014, says: “This account would be linked with the Aadhaar number of the account holder and would become the single point for receipt of Direct Benefit… Continue reading
nilekani meets modi, saves aadhaar
There is enough evidence to suggest that the crucial July 1 meeting between Nilekani, the prime minister and the FM, brought forth a volte face in the government stand on UIDAI. Only two days before this, on July 3, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Telecom, IT and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Planning Minister Rao… Continue reading
MGNREGA ver 2.0
out today, this story on the changes planned by the nda for nrega. Sanitation projects to reduce open defecation, increasing green cover and emphasis on creating assets form the crux of the Narendra Modi-led government’s blueprint for redeploying UPA’s flagship social sector programme — the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act or MGNREGA.Top officials… Continue reading
on aadhaar, npr and the nda
my colleague and friend vikas dhoot and i have this update on the continuing aadhaar and npr saga. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has backed the UPA’s Aadhaar programme for now, but that may not be the final word on whether it will be retained. The government has asked the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI),… Continue reading
on the quantum of natural forests in india
India has no more than 3.3 lakh sq kms of land under real forests, less than half the number claimed by the environment ministry in the 2013 forest survey released last week. for the longest time, india’s environment ministry has been claiming india is adding forests, not losing them. this assertion, as a bunch of… Continue reading
photos from here and there
other photos from the trip (see earlier posts) Continue reading
i have been reading about trilobites for a while now. first in an essay called ‘hard parts’ by david quammen. and then a spluttering succession of other books. these were the first lifeform on the earth to develop an exoskeleton, which is one reason why they are so well preserved in the fossil records. but… Continue reading
the inuit with his beluga
(from tadoussac, i went to the city of quebec. from there, some inuit scupltures i saw.) and these carvings on a walrus skull. what do you see? i see huskies, a dog sled, an eskimo, an igloo, another eskimo; on the other side, a seal, a walrus, a polar bear, another igloo and an eskimo;… Continue reading
the view from tadoussac
(i was on leave between the 12th of June and the 5th of July. a close friend was getting married in toronto. and so, i took about 25 days off and travelled in bits of canada and the uk) ** destination number one was a village called tadoussac. on the western bank of the st… Continue reading
from the 2014 economic survey
Bigger public-private partnership (PPPs) in social sector programmes and a thorough overhaul of the rural employment scheme to link it with creations of assets and infrastructure relating to agriculture and tourism are on the government agenda, the Economic Survey said. The biggest challenge confronting India is “unleasing the potential of its demographic dividend’, it said.… Continue reading
On the new forest diversion norms
Last week, India’s environment ministry overhauled the process it follows for identifying forests where industrial activities can be permitted. Instead of using six parameters — forest type, biological richness, wildlife value, density of forest cover, integrity of the landscape, and hydrological value – for deciding whether a forestland can be given over for, say, mining,… Continue reading
on coal and land
i am uploading this story late. it was published the day i went on leave. about ten years ago, ntpc was alloted the largest captive coal block of all — pakri barwadih, with 1.6 billion tons of coal. mining is yet to start here. the company blames delays in land acquisition. but the reasons for… Continue reading
fresh trouble for aadhaar
Agencies contracted to enroll people into the Aadhaar fold have joined hands to protest heavy penalties levied on them by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) that was steered by tech billionaire Nandan Nilekani till three months ago. The enrollment imbroglio is the latest in a series of shocks for the project in recent… Continue reading
on what it will take to clean the ganga
Till now, India has followed a relatively simple approach to clean up the Ganga—or, for that matter, any of its rivers. It has acted on the assumption that preventing pollution is sufficient to restore the river. Accordingly, India has been setting up effluent and sewage treatment plants, which clean up waste water before releasing it,… Continue reading
on how the upa’s development initiatives might fare under the nda
out today, a story on the possible outlook for the upa’s major development initiatives — aadhaar, cash transfers, npr, rights-based legislations, the proposed environment authority, the land acquisition bill — once the modi government takes over. It’s a space the incoming BJP-led government will need to .. Read more at: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/35353059.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst Continue reading
the strange case of the missing 2013 forest cover report
A crucial appointment and general elections have delayed the biennial government report on the state of Indian forests. This report, which was due in 2013, was first delayed because the Forest Survey of India (FSI), which conducts the survey, was headless for six months. And then, the ministry of environment held back the report, citing… Continue reading
on land, bjp, congress and the fine art of selective mudslinging
For weeks now, Congress and the BJP have been clubbing each other over land allotments.The attack started with the Congress alleging that the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, had given large tracts of land at dirt-cheap rates to infrastructure tycoon Gautam Adani, an industrialist Modi is widely perceived as close to. The BJP rubbished… Continue reading
on the CBI’s decision to start filing closure reports…
in the past few days, india’s central bureau of investigation (CBI), one of the country’s apex investigating bodies, has closed some of the FIRs it had registered while peering into the captive coalblock allocations. the reason it cited was ‘insufficient evidence’. more recently, unnamed CBI officials have been giving interviews saying that there is no… Continue reading
the bandhan experiment
early in april, the rbi surprised most financial sector watchers by granting a banking license to bandhan, a microlender with most of its operations in eastern india. in a story out today, my colleague atmadip and i take a closer look at this decision. and say that this is a high stakes experiment — for… Continue reading
should aadhaar be junked?
The last 60 days have not been good to India’s much-feted Aadhaar project. On the 30th of January, the UPA pressed the pause button on direct benefits transfer for cooking gas. On 26 February, the Mumbai High Court directed Aadhaar to share its biometrics database with the CBI. A year earlier, a seven year old… Continue reading
the greens step in
Even as the ministry of environment met its March 31 deadline to submit a plan to the Supreme Court for a new environment regulator, a set of academics, activists and environmental lawyers have weighed in with their own design. Concerned that the ministry version “would not meet the minimum standards of an independent regulatory authority”,… Continue reading
the environment ministry tries to weaken the proposed environment authority…
Tasked by the Supreme Court with creating a new and independent environment authority, the Ministry of Environment & Forests wants to retain its say in choosing the panel of experts to vet projects, a Cabinet note on the matter shows. This is a change from its earlier position, where the ministry said it would relinquish… Continue reading
the follies of rushing in…
yesterday was profoundly anomalous. i filed two stories. both, as it were, on aadhaar. one on a sting by cobrapost which flagged faulty enrolments. and the other where the supreme court said aadhaar cannot share its database with anyone without consent from the number holders. this is a significant development. over the last five years,… Continue reading
old enrolment concerns resurface re aadhaar
Investigative journalism portal Cobrapost has aired videos of sting operations that allegedly show the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) conducting a flawed enrolment process that allows people from even neighbouring countries to get an Aadhaar number after paying bribes. it is hard to escape a sense of deja vu. these complaints — about poor… Continue reading
on nandan nilekani’s stint with the upa…
out today, this quick and dirty story on nandan nilekani’s stint in upa2. it was a part of a larger package profiling some of the technocrats leaving office along with the upa — c rangarajan, montek singh ahluwalia, the member of the national advisory council, and nilekani. Continue reading
on the environment regulator: an interview with william lockhart
ET just uploaded an interview with William Lockhart, Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Utah’s SJ Quinney College of Law, re the proposed contours of the environment regulator. Professor Lockhart has been studying the Indian environment clearance process for a long time — my 2006-07 thesis on the Environment Impact Assessment Notification had… Continue reading
an update on the proposed environment regulator
India’s environmental clearance process is universally loathed. Industry and technocrats find it cumbersome and corrupt, and blame it for project delays and slowing growth. Environmentalists and project-affected people consider it superficial, corrupt and given to approving virtually all projects, unmindful of their social and environmental costs. Both views are correct. India’s environmental clearance (EC) process… Continue reading
the sharad pawar interview
on the day the sharad pawar story appeared, we put this email interview with him online as well. take a look. The press recently reported that you wanted a high subsidy (Rs.3,500/ton) for sugar exports. If Indian sugar is not globally competitive, why do we want to export it? If there is no domestic shortage… Continue reading
on sharad pawar’s ten years in krishi bhawan
a long time back, when i was at businessworld, i had written my first story on agriculture. that was on fixing the mandis. i had met sharad pawar for that story. it was 2004. he was new to the agriculture ministry. i was young and impressionistic. the story that emerged was technocratic and naive. almost… Continue reading
with the standing committee rejecting the mfi bill, old questions come back to haunt MFIs
and, after a long time, i write again on india’s search for regulatory mechanism for microfinance. With the Standing Committee on Finance rejecting the latest avatar of the microfinance bill, old questions about the microfinance sector have resurfaced. Since 2010, when the controversial Andhra Pradesh ordinance made it all but impossible for Microfinance Institutions (MFIs)… Continue reading
upa1 vs upa2
and so, upa2 presented its final budget – a vote on account – yesterday. and i wrote this quick little story comparing the developmental efforts of upa1 and upa2. In his speech today, Finance Minister P Chidambaram suggested UPA-II has done a good job on social welfare. As statements go, that assertion is not correct.… Continue reading
Why Health Secy Keshav Desiraju Was Transferred
something strange happened in mid-february. the bureaucrat who heads india’s union ministry of health was abruptly transferred. and none of the explanations doing the rounds seemed to make much sense. Why was health secretary Keshav Desiraju transferred? Two days ago, in a statement reproduced by the Press Trust of India, Azad said: “Officers’ and ministers’… Continue reading
the upa puts dbt-lpg on hold
out today, this story by my colleague yogima seth and me on a surprise decision by the upa to pause its DBT programme for LPG. The government’s decision to put the Aadhaar-based direct benefit transfer (DBT) for cooking gas on hold could be a blow to the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), set up… Continue reading
in october 2012, i had travelled to a tehsil in rajasthan called dudu where the congress formally announced that direct benefit transfers would be its magic bullet for the coming elections — in the state and nationally. well, i just reported for a story by my colleague akshay deshmane on the role of DBT in… Continue reading
no easy way to clean up the upa’s coalgate mess
last week, the supreme court finished hearing all arguments on whether the coalblock allocations should be cancelled or not. in the coming weeks, we will know india will find a sensible conclusion to the whole #coalgate saga or not. based on what we have reported so far, this can still go either way. the government… Continue reading
on the nachiket mor committee’s financial inclusion report…
Last week, when the Nachiket Mor committee released its report on financial inclusion, it created a flutter. It was ambitious. In a country which is still struggling to provide banking facilities to most of its poorer citizens, the committee set aggressive targets. By January 1, 2016, it said, every Indian over 18 should have a… Continue reading
the expert non-appraisal committee
Monday’s order by the Gujarat High Court directing 12 units in the Mundra SEZ of the Adani Group to temporarily stop operations till the SEZ receives an environmental clearance is yet another indictment of the environment and forest ministry. The order, besides hauling up the Adani Group for allotting land to companies even before obtaining… Continue reading
on the investment in captive coal blocks
Last week, defending the Centre in its coal-block allocations, Goolam Vahanvati, the government’s top law officer, told the Supreme Court that companies had invested Rs 2,00,000 crore in their captive blocks. Some industry players have been citing this figure as the financial cost of a complete cancellation of licences. But ET calculations on the estimated… Continue reading
india’s quest for an independent environment regulator
After the Supreme Court ruling on Monday, it is now clear that India will soon have an independent environmental regulator. What is less clear is whether this regulator will be a watchdog with teeth or without… in this story, i argue that since “environmental clearances can be a source of political rent, it is important… Continue reading
fruits, vegetables, apmcs, rahul gandhi
Last week’s missive from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, to states ruled by his party, allowing farmers to sell their produce of fruits and vegetables to anyone they want —and not necessarily route it through mandis— will not be transformative for Indian farmers on its own. For that to happen, the governments need to back this… Continue reading
in which the UPA window-dresses nrega
for a while now, we have known that nrega is not doing as well as before. this fact was painfully brought home last week when the hindustan times carried a story reporting that some nrega workers had committed suicide due to delays in payments. however, if you read the booklet that accompanied the prime minister’s… Continue reading
in which we argue the critics are missing the real picture on NOTA
The popular perception is that the ‘none of the above’ (NOTA) option – a measure of rejection of all candidates – did not make a difference in the recent assembly elections, being as low as 0.6% in Delhi. But the NOTA choice came third in terms of votes polled in as many as 148 of… Continue reading
india sees a surge in voter turnout
All the five states that went to polls over the past month, and whose results will be announced on Sunday, have seen an increase in voter turnout. While Rajasthan has recorded the highest jump of 9%, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh have posted an increase of 4.5% and 3.5% respectively. Political parties have attributed this higher… Continue reading
the latest update on l’affaire adani ports, moef and sunita narain…
Adani Ports and SEZ has challenged the environment ministry’s decision to impose penalties on it for environmental violations, setting the stage for a faceoff between the government and the company, possibly even a legal battle. In a letter to the ministry dated October 14, a copy of which has been viewed by ET, APSEZ has… Continue reading
what we think of opinion polls
out today, this quick and dirty primer on the current hullabuloo over opinion polls. Continue reading
the great rural land grab
For the longest time, the price of farmland in Vadicherla stayed below Rs 20,000 an acre.Ten years ago, that began to change. “In 2003, an acre cost Rs 25,000. By 2006-07, it had climbed to Rs 2 lakhs,” says Byru Veeraiah, sarpanch of this village in Andhra Pradesh’s Mehbubnagar district, “By 2010, an acre cost… Continue reading
is land leaving agriculture?
due to the great rural land grab, how much land is leaving agriculture? that is hard to say. the government says there is hardly any change — but that is unlikely. some say enough newer lands are being brought under farming to make up for the loss of farmland. but there is little mathematical work… Continue reading
the ‘society’ bank at mardi
Over the years, the ‘Society’ bank has come to occupy a specific niche in Mardi, a village of about 7,000 people near Sholapur, Maharashtra. Its loans are smaller than those given by the Bank of Baroda branch in the village. But it is faster at lending to small farmers. Says Rashid Gulab Sheikh, a farmer… Continue reading
on how india’s attempts to fix the coalgate mess are faring
in the days after the cbi’s 14th FIR, delhi’s political circles crackled with ignorant speculation. the FIR was the congress’ way of warning industry against supporting narendra modi, the BJP’s prime minister aspirant; the FIR had been filed to discredit pc parakh, the former coal secretary; a rival business group was trying to scupper industrialist… Continue reading
the moef sends a showcause notice…
there is an update on the adani-moef-sunita narain saga. the ministry’s showcause notice is finally up online. all the questions raised in the previous story remain unanswered. see the story here. Continue reading
on cbi fir #14
i reported for this story on the latest cbi fir — the one which named industrialist kumar mangalam birla and former coal secretary pc parakh. Continue reading
on vikram akula, sks and the mbts
on vikram akula’s attempt to get back into sks microfinance, by my colleague john samuel raja and me. Continue reading
why onion prices will singe you again and again
This January, the competition regulator sent an independent report to the ministry of agriculture on why onion prices spiked abruptly in 2010, a pattern that is playing out again today, with prices ruling at Rs 60-80 a kg for the last two months. This 86-page report, one of the clearest descriptions of how India’s agricultural… Continue reading
bad for aadhaar, good for cash transfers?
What is the future of one of India’s most high profile government programmes after Monday’s Supreme Court interim ruling on Aadhaar? And is there a collateral damage on election-facing UPA’s ambitious welfare schemes? The answers are starkly different. Aadhaar, unless the Supreme Court changes its ruling in the final judgement, has received a body blow.… Continue reading
in which the environment ministry decides to ignore its own laws…
By slapping a Rs 200-crore penalty on the Adani Group for environmental violations, the ministry of environment and forests may be breaking its own laws, say environmental lawyers. According to Delhi-based environmental lawyer Ritwick Dutta, the two laws that define the penal framework for such violations — the Environment Protection Act (EPA) and the Environment… Continue reading
the promises and perils of using databases for welfare delivery
Imagine a database that contains the following data about your family. Household level information like address, caste, asset ownership, the kind of house you live in, when you came to the city/village where you now stay, ration card number, etc. And individual level information about including names, ages, educational background, occupation, incomes, bank accounts, existing… Continue reading
gautam adani and what he tells us about modern india
today’s economic times carries my story on the rise of infrastructure tycoon gautam adani. here. also see this story. Continue reading
why the food security bill may not be the voter magnet the upa expects it to be
The sheer sweep and scale of the National Food Security Bill — subsidised food of subsistence quantities to up to 75% of the rural population and up to 50% of the urban population—suggests it could be an election game-changer for the ruling Congress-led UPA. But when seen along with the way this legislation will be… Continue reading
remembering dr rajagopalan
today marks two years since shashi rajagopalan or, as i called her, dr rajagopalan, passed away. for more on her and her work on co-operatives, click here. Continue reading
as in iron ore, so in sand
Last Sunday, the Uttar Pradesh government suspended Durga Shakti Nagpal, the sub-divisional magistrate of Gautam Buddh Nagar who had been cracking down on the sand mafia. Three days later, Pale Ram Chauhan, a Noida-based activist who had taken on the local sand mining mafia, was killed. Sand mining is back under the scanner. As are… Continue reading
the strange ways of kandla port
Last week, when Mundra overtook Kandla in the first quarter of 2013-14 to become the country’s largest port by tonnage handled, it was as much the result of the Adani Group taking decisions with purpose and strategic intent as the Kandla management demonstrating an inexplicable streak of indecision and inaction. In Gandhidham, the town that… Continue reading
field-tripping in india…
the last few weeks have seen a lot of travel. gujarat. before that, chhattisgarh. and before that, kerala. and i will soon be in andhra and maharashtra. am uploading some snaps from some of the places i have visited. in the weeks and months ahead, i need to travel more, spend more time in the… Continue reading
in the wake of Uttarakhand…
As the recent Uttarakhand disaster has shown, the relationship between development and the ecology cannot be regarded as a zero sum game. Not in this country, at least, which will soon be the most populous, and one of the countries likely to be the worst affected by climate change. Yet, state after state is brushing… Continue reading
too much coal in too few hands
So far, debates over Coalgate have been an exercise in selective attention. In the early days, most discussion pivoted around the UPA’s decision to allot blocks through the screening committee, and not auctions. The spotlight then settled on politicians whose family members got coal blocks, before moving to the UPA’s inspired attempts to vet what… Continue reading
a trip to southern chhattisgarh
i just got back from a week-long trip to southern chhattisgarh. if you, dear reader, hail from india then you almost certainly know the context for this trip. late last month, left-wing extremists (naxals, for the rest of this post) ambushed a convoy ferrying leaders of the congress party in chhattisgarh. about 27 people died,… Continue reading
the brutal after-effects of the killing of mahendra karma
With both the Congress and BJP advocating an intensification of the military campaign against the Naxals, and the UPA government at the Centre even committing more troops to Chhattisgarh, local development in the state could become a casualty in the crossfire… Such an intensification will result in greater harassment of local tribals, while retarding the… Continue reading
the retreat of the elephants
Working on the hydel stories, thinking about how these dams will change the Brahmaputra, feeling the country will have to live with the consequences of these decisions for a long, long time, I am reminded of this passage from Mark Elvin’s The Retreat Of The Elephants. A paradox has to be confronted. The same skill… Continue reading
contours of a hydelpower frenzy
(Note: This is a composite post aggregating all the stories ET did over the past week on the hydel scam in Arunachal Pradesh, a state in North-Eastern India) Between 2006 and 2009, the Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh signed 130 MoUs with companies allowing them to build hydelpower projects in the state. This blizzard of… Continue reading
the ministry of apathy
Take what will happen to the Lohit, which flows out of Arunachal and into the Brahmaputra, when the Lower Demwe Hydro Electric Project on it switches on. According to the project’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) report, the Lohit’s flow is around 463 cubic metres per second (cumecs) in winter, 832 cumecs in summer and 2,050… Continue reading
the strange case of hpdcapl
Arunachal Pradesh, the epicentre of hydel power in India, has decided to reverse its contentious decision in 2009 to give 49% equity in its hydro-power corporation to the Naveen Jindal Group. The decision, taken last month, came after a backlash from government departments and other companies having hydel projects in the state against the joint… Continue reading
the hydel contrarian
Which power-generation company with operations in India delivered the best returns in a post-Lehman Brothers world? That distinction does not belong to sector heavyweights such as Tata Power, Reliance Power, NTPC or Suzlon Energy. A little-known, 260-crore company, operating primarily in the clean energy space, has left these powerhouses trailing on shareholder returns since January… Continue reading
on arunachal’s egregious hydel plans
between december and now, i worked on a set of stories about the hydel projects coming up in arunachal pradesh. between 2006-09, this state in north-eastern india signed 130 MoUs with about 55 companies allocating them places where they could build dams. several things about these MoUs were surprising. these MoUs translated into 130 dams… Continue reading
coal to liquid projects. #coalgate
In the report it submitted last week, the parliamentary standing committee on coal observed that the inter-ministerial group (IMG) whose recommendations formed the basis of allotment of two large coal blocks to private players for conversion to oil “has not performed its duty honestly”. While the report does not elaborate on the IMG’s alleged failings,… Continue reading
enter, contingent liability
The government’s plan to make the Aadhaar number the centrepiece of the cash-transfer system is now facing opposition from a new quarter: banks. Several banks, led by State Bank of India, have expressed reservation against jettisoning their current systems in favour of the platform created by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which issues… Continue reading
a seemingly innocuous transaction
A company owned by former and current directors of the Naveen Jindal Group, and then by Naveen Jindal himself, gave an unsecured loan of Rs 2.25 crore in 2008 to a nondescript trading company, which used it to buy new shares on extremely generous terms of a company owned by Dasari Narayana Rao, one of… Continue reading
I am an Indian journalist with interests in energy, environment, climate and India’s ongoing slide into right-wing authoritarianism. My book, Despite the State, an examination of pervasive state failure and democratic decay in India, was published by Westland Publications, India, in January 2021. My work has won the Bala Kailasam Memorial Award; the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award; and five Shriram Awards for Excellence in Financial Journalism. Write to me at email@example.com.
“…une plongée dans les failles béantes de la démocratie indienne, un compte rendu implacable du dysfonctionnement des Etats fédérés, minés par la corruption, le clientélisme, le culte de la personnalité des élus et le capitalisme de connivence. (…a dive into the gaping holes in Indian democracy, a relentless account of the dysfunction of the federated states, undermined by corruption, clientelism, the cult of the personality of elected officials and crony capitalism).” Le Monde
“…a critical enquiry into why representative government in India is flagging.” Biblio
“…strives for an understanding of the factors that enable governments and political parties to function in a way that is seemingly hostile to the interests of the very public they have been elected to serve, a gross anomaly in an electoral democracy.” Scroll.in
“M. Rajshekhar’s deeply researched book… holds a mirror to Indian democracy, and finds several cracks.” The Hindu
“…excels at connecting the local to the national.” Open
“…refreshingly new writing on the play between India’s dysfunctional democracy and its development challenges…” Seminar
“A patient mapping and thorough analysis of the Indian system’s horrific flaws…” Business Standard (Image here)
“33 മാസം, 6 സംസ്ഥാനങ്ങൾ, 120 റിപ്പോർട്ടുകൾ: ജനാധിപത്യം തേടി മഹത്തായ ഇന്ത്യൻ യാത്ര… (33 months, 6 states, 120 reports: Great Indian journey in search of democracy…)” Malayala Manorama
“Hindustan ki maujooda siyasi wa maaashi soorat e hal.” QindeelOnline
“What emerges is the image of a state that is extractive, dominant, casteist and clientelist.” Tribune
“…reporting at its best. The picture that emerges is of a democracy that has been hijacked by vested interests, interested only in power and pelf.” Moneycontrol.com
“Ten best non-fiction books of the year“, The Hindu.
“Twenty-One Notable Books From 2021“, The Wire.
“What has South Asia been reading: 2021 edition“, Himal Southasian
“Journalism is a social enterprise…,” Booksfirst.in.
“Democratic decay at state level: Journalist M Rajshekhar on book ‘Despite the State’,” The News Minute.
“Covid-19 en Inde : “des décès de masse” dont un “État obscurantiste est responsable,” Asialyst.
“JP to BJP: The Unanswered Questions“.
Mahtab Alam’s review of “JP to BJP: Bihar After Lalu and Nitish”.
“Urban History of Atmospheric Modernity in Colonial India“. Mohammad Sajjad’s review of “Dust and Smoke: Air Pollution and Colonial Urbanism, India, c1860-c1940”.
“Westland closure: Titles that are selling fast and a few personal recommendations,” by Chetana Divya Vasudev, Moneycontrol. (Because this happened too. In February, a year after DtS was released, Amazon decided to shutter Westland, which published the book. The announcement saw folks rushing to buy copies of Westland books before stocks run out.)
“Time to change tack on counterinsurgency” by TK Arun, The Federal.
“All Things Policy: The Challenges of Governing States” by Suman Joshi and Sarthak Pradhan, Takshashila Institute (podcast).
“The Future of Entertainment“, Kaveree Bamzai in Open.
“On What India’s Watching“, Prathyush Parasuraman on Substack.
“The puppeteers around us“, Karthik Venkatesh in Deccan Herald.
“Will TN election manifestos continue ‘populist’ welfare schemes?“, Anna Isaac for The News Minute.
“Why wages-for-housework won’t help women“, V Geetha in Indian Express.
“The poor state of the Indian state“, Arun Maira in The Hindu.
26 December, 2021: Rangashankara, Bangalore, a discussion with Dhanya Rajendran.
16 November: Rachna Books, Gangtok, a discussion with Pema Wangchuk.
29 August: Books In The Time of Chaos, with Ujwal Kumar.
21 May: Hyderabad Lit Fest with Kaveree Bamzai and Aniruddha Bahal.
28 March: Paalam Books, Salem, Tamil Nadu.
19 March: The News Minute, “Citizens, the State, and the idea of India“
6 March: Pen@Prithvi, with Suhit Kelkar
20 February: A discussion between scholars Usha Ramanathan, Tridip Suhrud, MS Sriram and me to formally launch Despite the State.
6 February: DogEars Bookshop, Margoa.
5 February: The Polis Project, Dispatches with Suchitra Vijayan.
30 January: Founding Fuel, “Systems Thinking, State Capacity and Grassroots Development“.
25 January: Miranda House Literary Society